Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: Great moments in Prime Ministerial Speeches

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  • Stephen Judd,

    Sorry Tom. But you must admit horseshit IS Anglosaxon...

    Seriously, Claiborne is absolutely wrong. Your point, or his point, rests on a factual assertion that every word in the passage quoted (and i'm being generous here) is "pure English", except for surrender. And that premise is not true.

    Therefore the conclusion drawn - that Churchill's speeches are effective because the are based entirely on English words - is also untrue.

    Claiborne is not the first person to make this claim. I have read it (in weaker and more defensible form) elsewhere. But look, he didn't verify it, which he could easily have done in 30 seconds with a dictionary. He simply repeated, half-understood, what he read elsewhere. This is a sin of a lot of popular writers, particularly on language, for some reason. I hope you didn't pay too much for the book.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2973 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    tom, with stephen on this one. i'm actually surprised that your author didn't assert...

    Every word of this is pure English, save only for the final French trumpet peel of [cheese-eating] surrender [monkey]

    [consults concise oxford dictionary...] even 'beach' has a dubious origin. the concise oxford says it's origin is "16th century, origin unknown". another source says it's first apparent use was 1840(!?).

    that suggests there's a good chance the word was adopted from another langauge, or is an adaption of one.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    By way of peace-offering Tom, let me offer up two of my daily reads:

    Language Log
    Language Hat

    Both those blogs are by professional scholars, really interesting, and fairly accessible to an amateur like me.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2973 posts Report Reply

  • robert barnes,

    81stcolumn, you make some good points. If we could reduce the amount spent on military hardware we'd have much greater resources to do good stuff. A year's Kyoto cost might provide fresh water to the world, 6 month's (or less) US military spending would also (and would also reduce emissions).

    Of course, what we're both indulging in is the fun of specious comparison.

    However the sensible point is: everybody talks of the cost of GW, NOBODY talks of the benefit of GW reductions. There is an implicit assumption that if we suffer the economic pain of reducing emissions, then we can offset this against the cost of GW. Kyoto cost $100Bn, GW cost $200bn, net benefit $100bn.

    But this is NOT true. Whether you take the lowest or highest estimate of GW, and the lowest and highest cost of Kyoto, we can only offset Kyoto costs against the REDUCTION in the cost of GW. Kyoto has so little effect that we will have the cost of GW anyway: our choice is Kyoto plus GW, or negligibly worse GW. Thus if GW contaminates water so that we have to spend $$ to replace water supplies, we'll have to do that anyway. It is not either-or.

    My argument is not "Do nothing". It is "Do sensible things".

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    So my point remains valid. Horseshit? I'm gonna send Whaleoil around to shoot you in the head and steal your cigars, which I shall smoke whilst snogging your widow at your funeral. Unless you are gay, in which case I'll quietly give the cigars back and wash my hands.

    Sorry, but this deserved a second posting. Saved in my quotes bucket for future plagerisation.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1616 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Rich:

    We need more people using less energy. Having only 4 million people on a big chunk of land like NZ wastes energy - not least because those people want to visit each other and have stuff trucked to them. 8 million people could live much more sustainably than 4

    That pretty much summarises my position on the whole thing.

    We need to stop being a nation of farmers and become a nation of creators.

    I'd have to agree with that, too, though I think there's a lot of scope for "creative farmers", or in the broader sense adding more valuable to our raw products.

    I'm worried by the term "stationary energy": it implies that transport can't be powered by those sources. That will always be true of some transport, but there are plenty of public transport modes (trains, light rail/trams, trolley buses) that could indeed become carbon neutral. And the more we live the way Rich is suggesting, the more people will be able to travel without emissions.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    What do you think can be done to prevent the energy/emissions issue from being used as a political football (as has happened over the past few decades)? Does anyone think a referendum on the subject might have merit in terms of sending a clear message (and giving a clear mandate) to whichever future government is in power?

    Framing a clear referendum question on this, which contained only one question, definite detail, and could be answered with a simple yes or no would be, well, 'interesting'.

    My impression of twenty years bogging round the edges of politics has been that if you can get legislation passed, and it's not unbelievably contentious (foreshore, seabed), precious few succeeding governments can really be bothered getting rid of it. It's getting them to stump up in the first place that's the problem. A couple of years ago, the Blair govt produced a White Paper which from memory said that if they covered all the unused roof space in England with solar panels, they'd be net producers of energy. So... why aren't we requiring new houses to have solar hot water? Surely we could get concrete changes to the building regulations passed? And if you reduce end use of energy per household, you also slow down the increase in strain on the transmission infrastructure.

    But, y'know, I have an Arts degree, and I've spent too much time playing this game lately.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I picked up Mr. Clairborne's book at the Hard to Find in Onehunga. He didn't seem to have a bad bio when I looked the old duffer up, but there you go.

    Great links BTW.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1822 posts Report Reply

  • Anna Barge,

    David:

    Please understand that NZ cannot, should not start using bio fuels. While the idea is beautiful - lazy patches of wheat being magically transformed so it powers our transport system - the reality is different. Basically, the land needed for bio fuels is intensive. Changing to bio fuels would destroy our agriultural sector and would harm our countryside. The ammount of land needed to produce bio fuels is vast. The EU legislations on promoting/ using bio fuels has las to much of Malaysia burning it's rainforests in order to have the arrible land necessary to grow bio fuels. It also means that richer countries will start using excess land to grow bio fuels as opposed to having a surplus crop to feed third world countries.

    Basically, bio fuels are ethically, environmentally and economically a disaster.

    Since Feb 2007 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Anna Barge wrote:

    Please understand that NZ cannot, should not start using bio fuels... [they] are ethically, environmentally and economically a disaster

    Thanks for your concerned message, Anna. I didn't have time to go into the details of biofuels in the post -- but I'll quickly do so here...

    Yes, biofuels (which include biogas, bioethanol, biodiesel, and any other form of directly combustible biomass) in Europe and the U.S. are problematic -- and I know of at least one group in NZ who oppose biofuel introduction. But I should point out that biofuels would work entirely differently in NZ from Europe or the US.

    Apart from anything else it wouldn't be economically sensible for us to grow crops of corn or rapeseed for biofuels. As an agricultural exporter we'd be far better off using the land for some other crop that could be sold at a much higher price. Agricultural countries who subsidize their agriculture don't tend to stay in business for very long.

    To be economic, biofuels in NZ would *have* to come from waste products, e.g. tallow, sewage, waste straw, and waste wood. The only virgin crops that could sensibly be used for biofuels would be woody biomass grown on land unsuitable for cropping or grazing e.g. coppiced willow, etc.

    See these links for more information on biomass in NZ:

    Waste tallow

    Putrescible waste biomass:

    Waste wood (and woody biomass grown on land unsuitable for cropping or grazing):

    Sewage

    Note that NZ already gets about 9 per cent of its energy from biomass (firewood, etc).

    Biofuels have been rightly criticized in Europe (by Mondibot and others) -- and obviously laws that require sustainably-produced biofuels are essential. But as far as I can see it's a completely different story in NZ.

    Like you, I was also initially very sceptical of biofuels in this country -- but I think we can both relax!

    Michael aux Pfraundorf wrote:

    Don't write stuff like this anymore. It's too depressing. Nobody wants to hear that. Write funnier stories.

    Your name and address sound somehow familiar, Michael -- but shouldn't that be 'aus' rather than 'aux'?

    I know exactly what you mean about depressing everyone. I was tossing up the idea of a light-hearted story about a kitten or the whole carbon-neutral thing. Perhaps I should have gone with the kitten.

    I'll write something more cheerful next time...

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    david,

    but what about countries that already grow foods that are bought up at higher prices by developed nations wanting ethanol for their cars?

    mexico for example?

    (he says, playing devil's advocate)

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    !!

    i read my linked article more closely, and saw the issue is the US limiting corn imports because of domestic demand for ethanol. but you get the picture all the same.

    PS. matt, when does my gravatar start showing up?

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    /me pours buzzword oil on the fiery debate

    Deforestation Diesel.

    Since Nov 2006 • 525 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    deforestation diesel...


    yeah, but if it ain't diesel, they'll deforest for the hardwoods or other trees for pulp.

    i remember examining case studies of the malay cutting down forests in borneo to make chopsticks when i was a wee first year student, 1990.

    one way or another, those forests are sunk.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Che Tibby wrote:

    ...what about countries that already grow foods that are bought up at higher prices by developed nations wanting ethanol for their cars?

    As I said, the situation in other countries is problematic. That's why I was initially sceptical about biofuels in this country... but having seen some of the NZ-relevant research I have changed my mind. NZ's per capita energy resources are so entirely different from any other nation (we're much luckier in terms of renewables, for a start).

    I've read all sorts of reports on intensive agriculture RE: biofuels in other countries -- but it's well outside my area of scientific expertise and I'd be loathe to comment on the topic. But I don't think many of these issues apply to NZ (except that regulations requiring sustainably-produced biofuels -- whether locally-produced or imported -- are obviously essential).

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    would you also consider it likely that new zealand could lead in the 'biofuels as a by-product of 'normal' agriculture' sciences?

    if so, that's the kind of smart+exportable stuff they like hearing about here in the capital.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    one way or another, those forests are sunk.

    So we might as well cut the lot down? Vandal! Won't someone think of the children and carbo-neutrality!

    I guess we could dry sheep dung though and use that for bio-fuel. Wouldn't want to be in ChCh though when the inversion strikes...

    Since Nov 2006 • 525 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Che Tibby wrote:

    ... would you also consider it likely that new zealand could lead in the 'biofuels as a by-product of 'normal' agriculture' sciences?

    I think that's already happening now (in a very small way), see:
    Biodiesel from sewage
    Bioethanol from waste wood

    And I certainly think that New Zealand has the potential to make a vast amount of money exporting other renewable energy technologies such as marine energy (c.f. Denmark and wind energy). It depends on how well government structures the future energy sector -- whether we become an innovator or a cargo-cult country that waits for technology to arrive from overseas.

    Emma Hart wrote:

    Framing a clear referendum question on this, which contained only one question, definite detail, and could be answered with a simple yes or no would be, well, 'interesting'.

    Thanks for your comments, Emma -- and I take your point. But how about something that defines a very basic envelope for government policy, e.g.

    "Should New Zealand become carbon neutral by 2040 (at the latest)".

    I should emphasize at this point that I'm not a climatologist (and therefore don't have the scientific expertise to say whether carbon neutrality would be a good thing) but it seems like it would send an unequivocal message to future governments, and give them a clear mandate for action.

    I'd like to see a public debate and clear mandate for any proposal on this sort of vast scale...

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Won't someone think of the children and carbo-neutrality!

    most children these days are sequestering large, voluminous asses of carbo-neutrality.

    "fat kids: good for the planet"

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • matthewbuchanan,

    PS. matt, when does my gravatar start showing up?

    Hmm, yeah, I can't really say. Theoretically, immediately; demonstrably, not. Russell's showed up today after uploading a day or two ago, but I changed mine over the weekend and it's still showing my old one. Tom at Gravatars seems to be having a few issues still, hopefully he'll get them resolved soon. Stay tuned.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 161 posts Report Reply

  • matthewbuchanan,

    @Che: My best guess is that in order to get his system more responsive, Tom switched from generating gravatar images on the fly, to queuing, pre-rendering and caching them. And given he's just relaunched, the queue is possibly a little longer than is optimal. This should settle down over the next few days/weeks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 161 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    matt, no worries. my main concern was the size of the image. shouldn't matter given the cropping tool, but still wondered.

    thanks.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Judi Lapsley Miller,

    Great post David! It's a pleasure reading about energy alternatives, etc., from someone who actually knows what they're talking about!

    You said:

    I think we should keep an open mind on the nuclear energy option. That said, it has a lot of problems associated with it (I could write a very boring essay on this subject). It makes far more economic sense to exploit our renewable resources first.

    I would quite like to see a boring essay on this, as I think it's helpful to keep reminding folk in detail why nuclear power is not currently feasible for NZ. (And I'm sure you'd find a way to make it interesting :-)

    I'd also like to know more about the arguments for and against thorium reactors, which, from what I've read, counter most of the arguments made against traditional nuclear power generation. Other than the fact that the technology isn't quite there yet, are there any other gotchas with thorium, especially for NZ? I'm thinking longterm here. (I firmly believe we have lots of other simpler, cheaper options to pursue first).

    Cheers,

    Judi

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Judi Lapsley Miller wrote:

    I'd also like to know more about the arguments for and against thorium reactors, which, from what I've read, counter most of the arguments made against traditional nuclear power generation.

    Thanks for your comments, Judi -- a very good point.

    I'm not an expert on nuclear power (still less thorium reactors) but I do know a little about the topic.

    As I understand it, there are three problems with using conventional U235 or U238 reactors in New Zealand: integration, cost, and waste disposal.

    1. Integration -- the size and load-balancing problems with standard nuclear power technology make it difficult to integrate into the current New Zealand system. It's possible that this may change in the future, but the Electricity Commission has a good explanation of why it's problematic now:

    http://www.electricitycommission.govt.nz/faqs/faqsgeneral

    2. Cost -- the Electricity Commission (see previous link) estimates that nuclear electricity in NZ would cost twice as much as electricity from our abundant renewable resources. Note that overseas studies on cost comparisons between nuclear and renewables do not reflect the much lower cost of renewables in New Zealand (for example, our wind farms run at about twice the capacity factor of their European equivalents)

    3. Disposal -- safe storage of nuclear waste in NZ's geologically-active environment is a real problem (and may not be easily solvable). The option of transporting the waste to Australia (presuming that they'd take it) introduces the obvious hazards in terms of shipping anything on the high seas.

    Thorium reactors offer three important advantages over 'conventional' nuclear power. Firstly, the thorium fuel isn't fissile -- so the reaction relies on neutron bombardment (perhaps from a particle gun) to get going. This makes it inherently safe technology in terms of operation. If anything goes wrong then the reaction just switches off! There's no possibility of a meltdown.

    Secondly, thorium reactors produces less waste than conventional nuclear power stations, as well as waste that is much less radioactive (obviously there's no dangerous plutonium in the spent fuel).

    Thirdly, thorium is a comparatively abundant element in comparison to, say, U235. There's lots of it about -- particularly in Australia.

    In terms of the three hurdles to use of nuclear power in NZ (integration, cost, disposal) the cost and integration problems are unknown since (as you point out) no-one has actually built a full-scale Thorium reactor. It may be that they are economic at a smaller size than conventional nuclear power stations.

    The waste from a Thorium reactor is only dangerous for around 500 years. This still makes it a big problem in New Zealand, but certainly not as bad as 'conventional' nuclear waste.

    I guess we'll just have to wait and see in terms of Thorium reactors if/when they are built. Certainly if I was Australian, I'd be looking at them very closely!

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    I like the name. "Thorium". Very heavy metal, totally high fission. It resonates with power, it does. Odinium wouldn't be half as cool.

    If we're going to ban incandescent light bulbs in favour of fluorescent ones containing mercury, why worry about something like nuclear power that won't be anywhere near as hard on the environment?

    Since Nov 2006 • 525 posts Report Reply

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